Inspiration: ReFab Yourself by knowing yourself | the ReFab Diaries

This little blog of mine is extremely targeted so I'm rarely interested in the many promotional opportunities that the "real world" offers me. When this one came along, however, it felt like a fit. I'll explain why in a moment. First, a note about 23andMe. I remember when the service first appeared in 2006, promising personal DNA analysis to "regular" people. It sounded completely fantastical to me. It also cost $1000 - not a real amount of money in my ordinary-person world. But I tucked the idea away ... I was intrigued. 

I lost one grandfather to Parkinson's, the other to complications related to decades of managing diabetes. Hypothyroidism appears overtly in my maternal line. I recently turned 40 and I'm really healthy, in general. However, I'm old enough to start worrying a little about the possibility of all these nasty things showing up in my future. And here's why I think the ReFab Diaries is an appropriate place to post about a service like 23andMe: if you like what I do here, there's a good chance you share a certain set of values with me. If you're conscientious to some degree about the impact you have on the planet, if you appreciate old things (and history in general) and you're vaguely frugal, then you're not someone just blowing all your disposable income on stuff. Which begs the question, what do you spend money on? Perhaps you buy primarily high-quality or doggedly support handmade and/or local. Perhaps you spend money on experiences rather than things. Recently, I've been spending a little more money on taking care of myself. For example, I've been seeing a chiropractor for just over a year and I'm literally walking taller. Money very well spent. 

So DNA analysis; worth those carefully saved pennies? I'd argue yes. Because self-knowledge at this level, in the world we live in, is tantamount to a superpower. And because, for those of us who are rather thrifty, this knowledge now comes cheap: $99. In six years, the price of personal genetic service has dropped from $1000 to $99. Can you say, umm, serious value?? And yes, they operate internationally. Here's how it went for me (and since I had nothing scary show up, read this as full disclosure).

Pictured above is the box that arrives in the mail. There's the tube (in which you deposit saliva), instructions and a specimen bag. Before doing anything else, you register your kit online. Then you spit. This is one thing that did surprise me: you have to generate a lot more saliva than I was expecting. Which is a very odd thing to make yourself do. But hey, it's painless. So you fill the little chamber with your saliva. Then you mix it gently with the fluid already in there. And mail it back in the box in which it arrived. Hard to imagine how it could be easier (less spit required?). My results went live online within about 5 weeks. I got an email telling me I could log in and take a look. A bit like a fortune teller revealing what she sees in the crystal ball, only more believable! 

First, the "health risks" information - very very interesting. You gain access to over 240 health reports (!) Here are my highlights: The top elevated risk for me: gallstones. Good grief. But I'll take it! Two reasons why: First, it seems that a sure-fire way to avoid gallstones is to stay vaguely healthy and maintain a "healthy weight". Ok. Check. The other reason I'll take it? My risk of developing alzheimers, melanoma, Parkinson's, breast cancer and type 1 diabetes is average-to-lower-than-average. In the case of alzheimers, quite a lot lower. Whoop!

The caveat in all this: what can and cannot be established by DNA analysis is still in its infancy. But they make amazing progress every year. Partly thanks to the quarter or so million members now making up the 23andMe database. Just a few days ago, my alzheimers risk decreased thanks to new information just acquired. 

Some fun health / inherited traits info that I enjoyed (and am sharing) because it validates the "I-just-know-this-about-myself" feeling:
  • I'm genetically likely to be lactose intolerant. 
  • My "unusually curly hair" is care of my DNA, not my diet or too many years of home coloring! (so there, mom!)
  • I have muscles well suited to endurance and poorly suited to sprinting. You have no idea how great it is to finally have an excuse for being slow  :)

And finally, the ancestry info. I didn't think I was going to be either very interested or very surprised by this. I was wrong. Almost half my DNA connects me to a group of Eastern European Jews (Ashkenazi). Jewish ancestry?? I've always been told I'm pretty mixed western European - British, Irish etc. Not a single person in my family has ever mentioned Eastern European. Never mind the Jewish bit. Umm. Wow. Is it just me or are you also thinking someone hid something along the way? Guess who's about to start digging.  :) 

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.
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